Supernova
The decentralization category of Ross Mayfield's Weblog inspired by Kevin Werbach's Supernova Conference






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Friday, July 25, 2003
 

Digital Polity

Attended a networking luncheon this week where Reed Hundt gave a speech quite different than two weeks prior at Supernova.  Perhaps he drank the superjuice -- it was very emergent democratic and second superpowery.

The first speech centered on his proposal to provide Universal Broadband Access to over 90% of US homes by 2013.  Americans take the Net for granted more than anyone, while other enlightened countries (Korea being the poster child) make it a mission.  This year's Supernova had a greater focus on policy and Reed's was the one specific policy proposal I heared -- invest an amount less than the subsidy to analog TV for digital ($75b) to maintain economic competitiveness.  Unless there is a plausible path for ILEC demise, this is the best proposal on the table.  Reed also gets open spectrum, so sing a hallelujah and hope something happens.

One thing is for sure.  When Dean showed he could raise money on the Net, politics changed forever.

Previously the Net had demonstrated its ability to influence decision makers through individualize pluralism, beginning when Kevin Werbach set up the first citizen feedback email address.  Over 2 million emails were sent by citizens on the issue of media ownership, at last count according to Reed.  Blogs have also demonstrated the ability of an influential deliberative network to force the media to play their role as the 4th estate, Lott being the poster child.

But now the Net has become a constituency.  Decision makers like to say they are accountable even the poorest residents of their districts, but money is the source of their power and the group they serve is the group that elects them with it.  Dean has shown the Net as means to money.  And now every politician is finally paying attention.

Reed's talk last week was on the digital polity vs. the analog polity.  He spoke eloquently about the rising constituency and how its "not just that things reoccur, its that they get better."  There are core ideals, parties are means towards those ideals, but are largely ineffective.  A new party of a digital polity is emerging that holds certain core beliefs:

  • We know more than our leaders
  • We pay nobody to say what we want to hear
  • Information is percipient and wants to be free
  • We are build on systems and networks, not organizations
  • We synthesize the whole instead of constructing barriers and silos
  • We believe in truth and civil debate

Now I may not have everything word for word (thumbed it into my Palm).  He also stated digital polity principles of privacy, representation, honesty and equity.   He implies that leaders still have utility and a role to play, but they need to engage the digital constituency and build trust.  We don't depend upon the media because we are skeptics and experts, we are global and can engage in collective action without government.  That said, digital needs to negotiate with analog.  But these are powerful and re-occuring themes.

What is encouraging, if not remarkable, is that Reed is a civil servant, nay, politician, who undertands his new constituency and its reasonable demands.

At the end he did casually remark that we should abolish the US Senate, as they are a distortion of representation, serving only 15% of citizens.  The point he is making, though, is that leaders fall behind their citizens (especially in times like these).  Perhaps because they are not engaged with their constituents.  Perhaps because their interests are conflicted.  But the difference is our representatives need to recognize our new found powers to deliberate and represent ourselves at a pace they need to understand.

Which brings me back to Dean.  If a candidate and causes can raise money on the Net, they can engage in institutional pluralism.  Direct participation within the social network of decision makers.  This scares most policy makers, as the game has changed. 

Its a grass roots game ripe for changing minds and policy.  Valdis forwarded a paper, Encouraging Political Defections: The Role of Personal Discussion Networks in Partisan Desertions to the Opposition Party and Perot Votes by Paul Beck, that I found absolutely stunning.  We are bi-polar in our political views by nature, tend to filter out news we can identify is from the opposition and are comfortable in the absence of change.  But when an issue is socialized we have a greater chance of changing our minds.  When our social network provides new ideas and affirmations, we are more likely to take new positions. 

Perhaps that's the power of Dean's use of Meetup.  Meetup collapses time and space for deliberative groups to get together.  Inevitably, some participants are strong ties for affirmation and weak ties for new ideas.  What Dean is doing is opening up discussion at the social level to enact political change. How neofunctional of him.  What Dean needs to do, however, is get more of us to debate -- instead of the candidates.


4:40:43 PM    comment []

Tuesday, July 22, 2003
 

Trade Winds

The community that was fostered at AO2003 is now providing more pensive analysis.  This is a great time to reflect on how social software is changing the events business and the "trades" in general. 

An excerpt from Conferenza, which provides a tad more traditional paid research coverage of trade shows, contains this golden nugget of controversy:

Still, there were interesting insights, some intended and some not...

·   As a demonstration of the power of interconnection, a panel on Web services featuring Salesforce.com CEO Mark Benioff provoked the most talked-about moment of the conference – at Benioff’s expense. Asserting that the largest e-commerce software supplier is Amazon.com, Benioff pointed toward co-panelists from IBM and Sun Microsystems and said, “None of these companies has any position in [that] market at all. Even Apple’s iTunes music store was built on Amazon,” and asserted that Amazon has 300 people working on its proprietary software.

We thought this was news, until Ross Mayfield, CEO of one of the Web’s leading blogging software providers, Socialtext, led an online chat charge showing that most of this was apparently untrue: Amazon uses standard XML out-of-the-box stuff, and Apple’s iTunes doesn’t use Amazon’s software at all, the chatters charged. As Benioff continued, the audience watched as a group of online contributors disputed fact after fact, input Benioff apparently did not see. “It was sort of like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit,” said one attendee. “As Mark spoke, we could see his nose growing longer, like Pinocchio.”

How it played out in the Chat (Archive) was Kevin Marks did the fact checking, which was simultaneously projected on to the big screen:

[11:51] KevinMarks: no he didn't
[11:51] adina: bthey /are/ mentioning public web serivces

[11:51] KevinMarks: he licensed the patent
[11:51] KevinMarks: iTunes backend is not Amazon
[11:51] toughcrowd: this panel is showing lots of promise - but I love that cynical suspicion "lovefest"
[11:51] Ross: Amazon's real smart move was an API for developers
[11:52] adina: tross /greencard/
[11:52] Ross: but they dont get decentralization. witness http://www.allconsuming.com
[11:52] adina: ross /greencard/ again
[11:52] Ross: Kevin, did he say it was?
[11:52] KevinMarks: Apple had ahuge online store already selling Macs
[11:52] KevinMarks: they built on that for iTunes
[11:53] Ross: real-time fact checking Kevin, I love it
[11:54] DariusD: Do you know that the Apple onnline store was not built on Amazon technology?
[11:54] KevinMarks: It is built on Webobjects

Here's Apple's story of how iTunes was built and how they licensed the one-click form from Amazon.  Before we get carried away with the event of a fact check, rather than dynamic itself, its important to understand the context.  I doubt Marc had negative intent, he had little to gain if so, and he was just plain conversing.

This parallel channel, a second superpower on a finite scale, first emerged at PC Forum 2002 when Dan Gillmor blogged a fact check on Joe Nacchio.  Clay fostered the first experiments with social software as an in-room chat tool.  Supernova I was the first to formalize a group weblog.  PC Forum 2003 was the first to incorporate a conference wiki.  The O'Rielly Emerging Technology conference renewed interest in IRC and Hydra in parallel to the wiki.  Supernova II was the first to incorporate chat and wiki.  AlwaysOn was the first to add video streaming (Archive), creating a richer remote participation experience.

For some, the choice of modes is overwhelming at first, something we are tuning.  But Social Software and its practices for events has a reached a level of maturity where it is solving fundamental tensions of event structure. 

Take Bob Frankston's experience with remote participation after in-person attendance the first day:

While it's not the same as being their in person, I was surprised how well the combination of the video and Wiki worked. Over my standard home Internet connection I had very good audio and video quality in looking at the panel.

I don't know how to capture the screen picture that included the video so I simply used my digital camera to take a picture. That's Tony Perkins summing up the conference discussion log is in the lower left. There was a lively discussion with people in the room and others outside such as Joi Itcho in Japan and me at home. Joi mentioned that he was attending in his underwear and people wanted to get a video of him. He obliged though only above the waist...

...I judge events by the attendees more than by the panelists and, by that measure, the event has gotten off to a good start. The concept of being always-on or always connected is a good one though, in my opinion, it is important to distinguish between the transport issues that enable connectivity and the question of what one does with connectivity and the implications. This confusion is reflected in some of the panels.

As I write this I'm still attending remotely. I can view the conference over the Internet with very good audio and video quality. Socialtext is provided a live commenting facility using their Wiki software. This is wonderful for those like me who want to jump up and say "that's stupid" or maybe even be positive. There were problems with 802.11 connectivity the first day so I had only a few opportunities for such commentary though I did make good use of it. Today, from home, it appears to be working better and I've been able to add my own comments on the side.

Participating from afar is interesting. The audio/video works very well but I miss the ability to kibitz with others. A side-chat facility would help. Still, this is my first time trying such remote participation. Having been there for the first day I have some sense of the context and it works very well. Of course this is early stage and I can think of a lot of improvements but it is mundanely useful rather than being a novelty.

David Weinberger recently wrote a great piece in Darwin on the Death of Panels:

...Panelists and audiences do not share the same goals. Audiences want to learn and be entertained. Panelists want to impress and sometimes want to sell. Conversations work against the panelists' natural inclination to manage their speech; conversations develop their own gravitational fields that fling panelists together in ways they can't control.

If you're organizing a conference, as an audience member I implore you to cast aside the spurious safety of panels. If you're a moderator, you'll do everyone a favor if you rearrange the chairs, eliminate the opening statements, confiscate the bulb in the projector and get your participants to just talk. Don't "leave time" for audience participation; open it up from the beginning. Hell, screw the bulb back in and project the online chat where the real life of the conference is probably happening anyway...

Mike from Techdirt yearns for conferences with semi-structured small group interaction.

...An ideal conference, then, would be more like a day full of these lunches - that forced people to think in different ways. Thus, I'd love to see a conference where people are either randomly (or carefully planned by the organizers) split into small groups, and given a task or a challenge. Let them do some scenario planning that forces them to think creatively. Get people thinking, get them involved with the ideas, get them interacting with others and force them to think outside of their own viewpoint. Maybe challenge them. Have different groups "competing" in some way to get people to really pay attention, and really try to get their minds around very difficult issues. ..

Trade Winds

Social Software and Social Networking Models provide the greatest threat and opportunity for the trade industry (trade magazines & shows) -- because they change the notion of audience into participants.  The rise of weblogs and participatory media allow domain experts to contribute without making contribution their full time job.  Networking models allow people to connect regardless of space or time as is the case with LinkedIn, or in space and time with Meetup.  Because these tools work so well in virtuality, it is natural for them to be extended to reality (whatever that means).

Trade shows will fundamentally change their structure to become more participatory -- and the result is more connective, constructive and conversational.  Remote and in-room participants will moderate panels, there will be greater use of working groups and communities will persist between events.  We used to come to trade shows for the people in the place.   As Dr. Weinberger says in Small Pieces Loosely Joined, the web is a set of places itself.  Now we have places upon places, where the network is the conversation.

This isn't the place for me to talk about commercial value for event organizers, but let me say this.  There is no such thing as a closed system.  Bloggers are coming to your conference.  You can't throw up Walls.  The energy can dissipate or enjoin with the event.  Do what Tony did and give out blogger passes.  Augment experiences.  Create a greater and more open context for your event and the wind will blow at your back.


11:51:45 AM    comment []

Friday, July 11, 2003
 

Supernova Photos

Jason took some great pics at Supernova.  Cory took some great notes from my panel.

DSC_5950.jpg


2:17:43 PM    comment []

Monday, July 07, 2003
 

See you on the other side

On my way to Supernova.  See you there and here.


6:28:28 AM    comment []

Supernova Context

I created a wiki page for Supernova 2002

If you attended the first one, and have reflections or posts to share, please do.  First time attendees will appreciate the context.


6:18:40 AM    comment []

Sunday, July 06, 2003
 

Quote of the Day

From the heckler's page:

You can often rate a conference by the quality of the offsite participation. -- JoiIto


3:54:34 PM    comment []

Heckle Me

Off to Supernova 2003.  All packed up an ready to go. I'm off to Supernova 2003. Please join me in the #joiito channel on irc.freenode.net at 10am in DC (UTC -0400) if you want to heckle me during our panel. I'll be on IRC. Hopefully, we'll be able to get it up on a projector. ;-) [Joi Ito's Web]

Cool tool and a great opportunity to heckle Joi.  Hey, wait a minute, Im on that panel too.  This can't be a good thing ;-)


3:49:24 PM    comment []

Thursday, June 26, 2003
 

Supernova Wiki

Get wiki with it. The Supernova Wiki is now up and running, courtesy of my friends at Socialtext.

What's a wiki? you ask. (Or at least, some of you ask.) It's like a collaborative Website where each page is editable by users. The wiki is useful for real-time information and collaborative tasks (like figuring out where to meet for dinner) that don't work as well with the linear narrative structure of Weblogs.

The Supernova wiki, like the group blog, is open now for your contributions. [Werblog]

And Joi's Supernova party is set for the 7th.


10:21:45 AM    comment []

Friday, May 30, 2003
 

Chain Reaction

The second coming of Supernova is upon us. 

I am joining Joi Ito and JC Herz on the first panel, entitled Making (Business) Sense of Networks.

The Internet was just the beginning. Digital devices from mobile phones to gaming consoles are tapping increasingly common broadband data connections. Bottom-up communities are doing everything from sharing photos to challenging governments. Scientists and economists alike are recognizing that networks are the basic structure of our increasingly decentralized world. Major opportunities await those who can effectively organize information, people, devices, data, and metadata in the emerging sea of networks.

 

See you in DC July 8-9th.


12:32:03 PM    comment []


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